I’ve gained most of my impressions of the modeling industry from Zoolander; however after watching Chasing Beauty by Brent Huff, I realized everything I learned about modeling as a center for ants was wrong and I was grossly jaded. The documentary has the tagline of “ the ugly side of being pretty”, and with a collection of casting agents, veteran models, and inexperienced models, Chasing Beauty portrays the frustrating truths accompanying being a model in the industry.
It is a widely known fact that the modeling industry is subjective and difficult to work in. For models, they are only as hot as their last gig, and even after achieving a Vogue cover, there is an overwhelming pressure for acceptance of their beauty and body. Chasing Beauty confronts the audience’s prefigured conceptions of the industry and illustrates the differences between knowing the truth and having to experience it. It may seem vapid for a person to want pave a lifestyle from his or her beauty. However, through intimate interviews, Huff challenges the “emptiness” of the industry and shows that modeling is similar to a person’s dreams of entering any profession—Instead of having to take an entrance exam to achieve their dreams, models must dedicate their entire lives in hopes of fulfilling dreams, which some have had since childhood.
The documentary balances the personal pressure and desire of novice models with the faded bedazzlement of experienced ones. Veteran models such as Beverly Peele, a high-fashion model from the late 80s and 90s, reflect on their past careers with a mixture of fathom and disenchant. Peele’s career, like numerous former models, ended with a steady fizzle—a slow decline in high fashion shows and magazines wanting to feature her. Though faced with the truth of no longer being the page turning supermodel, Peele still has a slight spark in her eyes, and it is a spark that reads to the audience that she wouldn’t have her life any other way.
Behind the beautiful faces and the muted LA setting, Chasing Beauty reminds the audience of a somber truth: not everyone’s dreams can come true, and before the fate of a person’s dream is decided, he or she has the right to chase after it.
If you are interested in learning more about Chasing Beauty, below is a link to documentary’s website.
The Year 2014 will be over before you know it. Before you’re hit with the award season frenzy of trying to figure out, which documentary is going to win an Academy Award or critics’ praises, check out some of new documentaries that have been released in 2014.
- Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
- Code Black
3. Mala Mala
- Tomorrow We Disappear
- Concerning Violence
If you’re famished for more documentaries to watch, then check out this link, which details more documentaries released in 2014.
If you’re feeling low over the approaching final papers and tests (the curse of a quarter system college), or if you’re looking for some inspiration, why don’t you take a short break and live someone else’s life for a few minutes? Check out the POV short films on PBS.
POV is an ongoing PBS series of diverse documentaries. About fifteen are premiered each year on TV, but what I’m most interested in are their online offerings. Honestly, I am not quite sure about the connection between the shorts and the premiered videos, but they are certainly interesting. The 2014 season starts June 23rd (you can find the schedule here) but there are already over 40 films to chose from online, and more are always being added. More are always being taken down too– films are kept online for a period of time, from a few months to a few years, until they expire. At that point, full films are unavailable, but trailers are still accessible. So if there’s something you see on the site that you really want to watch, don’t put it off!
At five to fifteen minutes apiece, a short is a perfect study break. For chronic procrastinators, maybe one of the offered feature films are more to taste (usually an hour or longer).
The shorts that I have found interesting are:
- Grounded by Reality
“Diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at age 19 months — Jessica took her last steps at three years old, but that didn’t keep her from drawing on the walls of her home. Recognizing her talent early on her family encouraged her as artistic talent and today — even as she loses her ability to draw — Jessica keeps finding ways to create. Grounded by Reality gives you a glimpse into Jessica’s everyday struggles and her fierce determination to be seen as a whole and vital person through her art making.”
“Irma is an intimate musical portrait of Irma Gonzalez, the former world champion of women’s professional wrestling. Filmed in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl — a notorious district of Mexico City — Irma contradicts everything we have come to expect from stories reported from Mexico. Featuring music written and performed by Ms. Gonzalez, Irma’s story surges with love and deceit, masculine strength, feminine charms, and an extraordinary sense of humor.”
“Filmmaker Jesse Epstein takes us inside the Patina V Mannequin Factory in City of Industry, Calif., where the artistry, craft and marketing that go into creating “the ideal woman of the moment” — in plastic — are accompanied by a remarkable amount of reflection on just what that ideal means (one thing it means is a 34″ x 25″ x 36″ figure). Patina V is a place where the owner will tell women (and then run for cover), “There are no perfect bodies out there. We make the perfect body.”
- Trashed Out
“This deeply affecting and simple short shows workers cleaning out a house that has been foreclosed upon. What do the things left behind say about a family? What does an empty house say that was once a home? In a mere five minutes, Trash-Out makes a poignant statement on a timely subject.”
So often when we think of journalism, a particular ubiquitous style comes to mind: that self-consciously economical voiceless voice hat strives for a kind of disembodied omniscience. Of course, this mode of writing serves an important role and is useful and necessary. Scanning the morning news would be a chore if every journalist strived for Jamesian diction. Nevertheless, when I think of the pieces of journalism (and nonfiction that aims at something akin to documentary as well) that has meant something to me, it is usually the kind that quietly refuses to to hide the inherent subjectivity and humanity of the writer. Denis Johnson‘s work comes to mind, as do that of John McPhee and Susan Orlean. One piece–a prose poem–stands out above them all: Carolyn Forché’s “The Colonel.” Even her choice of form here is defiant. To document the atrocities of genocide in a poetic form! She couldn’t have made a more effective or heart-wrenching decision. To read more about Carolyn Forché and the history of this poem, click here. To hear Forché read this poem, click here.
(This beautiful broadside is available through Jeff Hirsch Books in Evanston)